Trust in the US took a hit following revelations of mass surveillance by Edward Snowden, but an agreement on data protection adopted by MEPs today should help to restore it. The deal known as the umbrella agreement covers the transfer of all personal data exchanged across the Atlantic when dealing with criminal offences, including terrorism. Green German MEP Jan Albrecht, who was responsible for steering the deal through Parliament", said it would ensure “high standards and high protection”.
What is the umbrella agreement about?
The umbrella agreement on data protection is about high standards and high protection for personal data when it is transferred between police authorities in Europe and in the United States.
Was it difficult to restore trust following the revelations of mass surveillance by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden?
The Snowden case was very important as it showed that the United States needs to deliver on trustworthy data protection rules when it comes to security. We pushed for the umbrella agreement to be adopted in order to restore trust. We are very happy that we managed it, at least concerning police matters, as the intelligence services are not covered by this agreement. We still need to improve and work more on this side
The Judicial Redress Act in the US paved the way for the umbrella agreement by giving people living in the EU the right to challenge in US courts how their date is used the agreement (US nationals already enjoy this right in the EU). Are the umbrella agreement and things like the Judicial Redress Act enough to ensure data protection when cooperating on police and judicial matters?
The Judicial Redress Act in the United States is very important. For the first time in history the United Stated opened up their fundamental rights to non-US citizens or residents. This is important because otherwise we couldn’t transfer data anymore to the United States as the European Court of Justice had already decided that this is an essential element of any such agreement.
Are you worried about how the new Trump administration could affect this agreement?
We don´t know what the Trump administration will bring and how they will deal with this issue of data protection and data transfers. However we have ensured than this agreement is either implemented fully by the United States, or it does not enter into force and the situation stays as it is.
How will this affect the situation here in Europe?
This umbrella agreement improves the situation also within Europe because many member states already have agreements with the United States which offer very low protection standards. On the other side we also need to further improve data protection standards in our member states and at the EU level when it comes to police and judicial work, as a precondition for better cooperation against crime and terrorism.
The umbrella agreement covers the transfer of all personal data, such as names, addresses or criminal records, exchanged between the EU and US for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of criminal offences, including terrorism.
The civil liberties committee voted in favour of the deal last week and now all MEPs will vote on it during today's plenary session. Although the agreement has already been signed, Parliament will still need to approve it before it can enter into force.